Since California counties became responsible for lower-level offenders once housed in state prisons–the result of budget woes and a federal overcrowding lawsuit–some jails have become so cramped that inmates are regularly released early to make room, says the Sacramento Bee. In the first nine months of 2012, counties released inmates 120,000 times because of capacity limits, a 29 percent jump over the same period the year before, according to a Bee analysis of state data.
The first period precedes the Oct. 1, 2011, start of the state law, Assembly Bill 109, also known as realignment, which makes counties responsible for offenders convicted of crimes deemed not serious, violent or sexual in nature. Six of the 10 counties with the highest rates of capacity-related inmate releases are in the Central Valley: San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Fresno, Tulare and Kern. The San Joaquin sheriff said the early releases are contributed to the crime rate.